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The Idea of Perfection and the Practice of Virtues in
Iris Murdoch’s Philosophy

IHEU – Appignani Bioethics Center at the UN, New York

This essay details how philosopher and author Iris Murdoch’s central construct of “the Good” can best be conceived, first drawing from Plato and developed in conversation with Kantian thought (in sum, seeing the same problem in defining the achievement of moral perfection as did Kant, but finding its root and cure not in a defect of the “will,” but in the defect of “perception”). Thus, Murdoch’s sense of “moral realism” varies from the classical version, in that the Good is not a function of human choice and will; it is rather an object of knowledge, desire and love. Differences between Murdoch’s core concern with defining what is good in humans versus what practical-virtue ethicists define as good for humans are then detailed. The essay concludes with Murdoch’s insights into the unselfing process and ways in which they could be better elaborated and applied.

Murdoch, Plato, Kantian ethics, the Good, unselfing, virtue ethics, moral realism, will, perception


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